A BUSINESS has reopened its doors after it was razed to the ground by fire exactly a year ago.

Boardcraft, one of the UK's largest independent importers, suppliers, and distributors of wood-based panel products, held a celebration day at its St Neots factory to mark the occasion yesterday (Tuesday).

To mark the firm's return, the Boardcraft team produced and sold commemorative children's rocking chairs for a donation to the Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service's charity.

On the same day last year, a fire broke out in the dust extraction system of the company's main production facility at Unit 15, Howard Road. Firefighters arrived to battle the blaze within minutes and two members of the crew entered the burning building to remove a gas container from a forklift truck, which was at risk of exploding at any moment.

The fire, which was hard to reach, had to be contained round-the-clock by firefighters for six days but continued to burn for two and a half weeks, destroying the building and its contents.

Bill Chambers, director of Boardcraft, said: "It was heart-breaking for the team to stand by and watch their life's work going up in smoke."

With the support of businesses and residents, they worked to secure the future of the business.

Mr Chambers added: "So many people rallied around to help, it was just incredible. Special thanks must go to our loyal and highly experienced staff who never once lost faith and knuckled down to keep the business going through what were nine months of hard grind and uncertainty."

The company was helped to keep cash flowing during the rebuilding process by its insurance company and loss adjuster, while refrigeration engineers SPG, which had recently vacated a unit three plots away, gave it a 12-month lease on another unit on the estate. A company it had bought machinery from for 20 years also stepped in to help by supplying it with enough equipment to get it back in business as soon as possible.

Mr Chambers added: "It was a fantastic day and a very emotional one for our team who have worked so hard to get us back on our feet again. To avoid similar catastrophes, we have invested in a state-of-the-art spark detection and fire suppression system and are now looking forward to serving our customers for many trouble free years to come."